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Trip Report: Special Weekday Edition

October 12, 2007
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I’ve always felt like there’s something devious about birding on a weekday. Like I’m intentionally ignoring my obligations of school or work or whatever, even when I’m not. Vacations are different because they’re accepted time off and often in a different place, but it just feels weird to have a spare Thursday morning like I did yesterday morning to spend at Mason Farm. Why old Mason Farm again? It was really slow last time, but I thought that the cold front that shot through last night dropping temperatures 20 degrees but unfortunately, bringing no rain, might have dropped off some winter sparrows at my door or pushed the last stragglers of fall migration my way. It kinda did both, but not in any great numbers.

It was in nearly every way the first nice fallish morning we’ve had this year. I felt that chill in the air as I arrived at Mason Farm and the first bird to greet me was a nice male Magnolia Warbler. They must have done well this year because I’ve seen a ton of them this fall. I thought that was a good sign and headed down the trail where I think I figured out why Mason Farm has been so slow this year. The answer is to the left. The best birding in the park has typically been down a row of Tulip Trees, also called Tulip-poplar or Yellow Poplar. They produce a fruit in the fall that’s very “poplar” (sorry) with birds. With the drought this year, the poplars fruited early, if at all, and since September they’ve been dropping their leaves like crazy. They look bad these days as you can see. No poplars, no birds. It’s been a rough year out here.

There were a few birds around, I did get my first of the season White-throated Sparrows and Ruby-crowned Kinglet. I saw three Black-throated Blue Warblers, though all were drab first year or female birds. And tons of deer, including one who walked within ten feet of me before realizing I was there and booking out of there. What. An. Idiot. I have a feeling that one won’t be lasting long once the deer season starts.

Best wildlife of the day was around a large grove of fruiting oak trees where I witnessed a turf battle between a family group of Red-headed Woodpeckers and Red-bellied Woodpeckers caching acorns for the winter. Like West Side Story but with woodpeckers instead of sharks and less dancing. The Heads would cache their acorns and the Bellies would watch and then steal the acorns for their own uses. The Red-bellies were right bastards about it too and the Heads would have to spend as much time fending them off as finding and caching acorns. Perhaps another reason why Red-head populations have been suffering while the Bellies have been booming. Also in full on cache mode were Flickers and Blue Jays, but the Jays were far too clever, as jays are, to allow their hard won fruits to get stolen.

On the walk back I had some really yellow Palm Warblers of the eastern race and several more White-throated Sparrows. Then I was gone again, hoping for better luck this weekend in the realm of migrating warblers (probably getting too late for them) and winter birds (slowly increasing). And for an indication of just how badly we’re doing for water around here, to the right is a photo of the Mason Farm creek. For perspective, the water usually goes over the road.

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